Drive-By Post: Snow, Books & Book Length

by Sarah on December 5, 2010 · 8 comments

It is still snowing here.

Speaking of snow: I just finished Snow Blind by Lori Armstrong, the last book in the Julie Collins series. I enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to reading No Mercy, which is the first book in her new mystery series.

The Julie Collins books are all around the 500-page mark. It got me thinking about the length of the books I usually read. I used to say I didn’t have a preference and that the number of pages should fit the story. Basically, I still believe this. However, I’ve noticed recently that I groan if I see a book is 600-plus pages long. I have Ken Follett’s latest release, Fall of Giants, but at almost 1000 pages, I don’t feel inspired to read it. I’m about 100 pages into The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Although it’s very good so far, the length is daunting. I keep reading other books and going back to it.

So what’s changed for me? Lack of time, I suspect. I’m a reader who likes to finish books in one sitting, or over a couple of evenings at the most. With the exception of Harlequin series romances, most of the books I buy are around 400 pages long. This seems to be the standard length for romances and mysteries these days. I guess I’ve grown used to this length.

Do you have a preferred length for the books you read?


Wendy December 5, 2010 at 21:54

Anything over 500 pages and I start to feel twitchy. I know I shouldn’t think this – but whenever I see a really BIG book my first thought is, “Oh lord, how much verbal diarrhea am I going to have slog through to get to the actual story?”

That said, I will read BIG books, but I really need to be arm-twisted into it. Last one I read was Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry – and the mmpb clocked in around 950 pages. I ended up really enjoying the book – but had to remind myself to be patient, and allow for the “set-up.” And in a book that size? Yeah, the set-up took around 250 pages – which was basically all character introduction. I don’t regret reading that book for one moment, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I felt a major sense of accomplishment when I finally finished it (after about 18 days….if memory serves).

LVLMLeah December 5, 2010 at 22:13

While I don’t mind longer books, I’m a slow reader so they take me forever to read. I tend to keep putting them off for shorter books.

My favorite length is a novella, about 200 pgs.

Liz December 6, 2010 at 00:40

I’m in the middle of No Mercy and enjoying it, thanks to you.

I have loved plenty of long books (I have a degree in Victorian lit), but these days, I do turn to shorter. I have less time to read, I’m tired, I’ve got a big TBR, and short gives me the satisfaction of feeling I’ve finished something–hence category romance binges, even when I’m looking forward to some of the longer books in my pile. (I love A.S. Byatt but I’ve been stuck in the middle of her latest tome for a year now, because I just can’t bring myself to give up so much reading time to it).

And I do feel that many long books I’ve read could’ve used a firmer editorial hand. As one of my professors once said about our papers, “Anything over 20 pages had better be damn good.” A book has to earn its length. I’m with you on a book being as long as it needs to be, but I haven’t met a lot that really needed to be 500+ pages, or where I’d be unwilling to lose a single one of those pages.

Peggy P December 6, 2010 at 01:02

I am starting to read Snow Blind too, thanks to your rec, I read the first 3 books in record time. This is a great little mystery series and I’ve enjoyed each book more than the last and while I’m anxious to read #4 – I will be sad to reach the end. You are right, Lori Armstrong deserves much more recognition!

heidenkind December 6, 2010 at 07:22

Probably around 300. Five hundred is daunting to me these days.

Sarah December 6, 2010 at 14:32

@Wendy: I have Lonesome Dove but I still haven’t read it. I agree with you that long books often take ages to get to the actual story. It’s not true of every long book, obviously, but many could have a couple of hundred pages cut without losing any vital info.

@LVLMLeah: I’ve read more 200-page books this year than I have in a long time. Most were category romances which I could finish in one sitting.

@Liz: I’m delighted to hear it! I’m looking forward to starting No Mercy as soon as I finish the book I’m currently reading.

If the A.S. Byatt book you’re referring to is The Children’s Book, I’m in exactly the same situation. I started it about a year ago and I still haven’t finished it. It’s not just the length which is daunting. The copy I have is a large format trade paperback. It’s unwieldy to hold and impossible to read comfortably in bed, which is where I do most of my reading.

@Peggy P: Yay! I’m delighted to hear you’re enjoying the Julie Collins series. I read the books back-to-back and enjoyed them immensely. Lori Armstrong’s new mystery series is published by Simon & Schuster. Hopefully being with a larger publisher will get her books more exposure. I must say, though, that the Medallion Press covers for the Julie Collins books are lovely.

@heidenkind: Maybe we’re just getting used to mass market paperbacks being shorter these days.

Trish December 6, 2010 at 19:28

As I haven’t yet made the financial leap and bought an e-reader, So, I have the problem of the weighty paperback to contend with. I’m currently reading ‘No Ordinary Time – Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelt: the Home Front in World War II’ by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I’m really enjoying it, but it’s 768 pages and it weighs 2 lbs. I have had to find a lighter book (in every sense) as my bed book, to avoid concussion – or worse. In general, I find books of 300-350 pages to be about right – in the same way that I like movies to tell the story in less than 2 hours. Sometimes the longer tome is worth it, but more often than not, less is more.

Liz December 6, 2010 at 21:27

@Sarah: It is. And I have the hardback, which is beautiful but huge and weighs a ton. So yes, that doesn’t help.

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